On Earth Day, please choose to NOT cremate yourself

Happy Earth Day 2021!

World ‘leaders’ are meeting today and tomorrow for US President Biden’s ‘Leaders Summit on Climate‘. And there are several other ‘summits’ taking place to discuss this topic throughout the coming months, including the UK-hosted COP26 in Glasgow in November, which was postponed from last year due to COVID-19.

I’m reasonably convinced that any ‘action’ proposed by these high-profile activities will be just as ineffective as all the other ‘initiatives’ implemented in recent decades (to me, the number ’26’ itself speaks volumes: ‘leaders’ talk and talk, and absolutely nothing happens).

It’s down to each and every one of us.

When you’re typing, your computer is using electricity. When you press send it goes through the network and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity.

We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing.

[…] cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment. Every time we take a small step towards changing our behaviour, be that sending fewer emails or carrying a reusable coffee cup, we need to treat it as a reminder to ourselves and others that we care even more about the really big carbon decisions.

Professor Mike Berners-Lee, author, researcher
— and brother of Tim, inventor of the World Wide Web

In a recent blog post (‘Think before you thank?‘), I mulled over the urgent need to change our behaviour to at least try to deal with the burgeoning problem of climate change. This is something that we simply must do, despite the many delusional morons who continue to claim there isn’t a problem and that it’s all a government conspiracy (to me, those people just sound like those nutcases who shout, “the Earth is flat!”, or, “the Moon landings were faked!”). That post was about the relatively trivial matter of carbon emissions due to sending emails. There are many other things we can each consider doing; for instance, even though I used to enjoy travelling abroad, some years ago I vowed never to fly again on the grounds that that was an effective way to reduce my own carbon footprint.

I recently entered my seventh decade in this mortal realm, and my mind has turned to making arrangements for when I leave it. When I’ve thought about this in the past, my vision has been of having a natural burial in some tranquil woodland, with the dwarf horse chestnut tree I grew from a conker and have tended for a third of a century planted on my resting place (after I’m gone, I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel obliged to look after it, and maybe have it die and then feel bad about that).

A short while ago I learned that some folks who are very dear to me have made arrangements to have their remains cremated after they shuffle off this mortal coil. I find that thought horrifying. Our way of life is killing us. And it’s even doing that after we’re dead.

Making arrangements to get cremated is like adding a road trip from Madrid to Moscowand back again — to your bucket list.

The Cremation Association of North America says 56 per cent of bodies in Canada are now cremated annually compared with only 2.75 per cent 50 years ago. Cremation is typically seen as cheaper than burial, but environmental costs usually are not factored in.

Since it takes two to four hours at temperatures ranging from 1,400 and 2,100 F, or 760 and 1,150 C, the estimated energy required to cremate one body is roughly equal to the amount of fuel required to drive 4,800 miles, or 7,725 kilometers.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are spewed in large volume, along with carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, particulate matter, heavy metals, dioxins and furans.

There is also release of cadmium and lead from pacemakers and mercury from dental amalgams. Total mercury emissions from cremation in Canada for 2004 were between 240 and 907 pounds, or 109 and 411.6 kilograms.

Source: Desmog

Dying ain’t cheap. The Money Advice Service, to which the gov.uk website pointed me, says, “On average, the cost for a burial is £4,383, whilst the average cost for a cremation is £3,290“. Ow. It’s easy to see why cremations are on the rise. But when considering ‘cost’, one has to consider not just the out-of-pocket fees, which are considerable, but the externalities, too. Making arrangements to get cremated is like adding a road trip from Madrid to Moscowand back again — to your bucket list.

Madrid to Moscow: ~2500 miles according to the AA Route Planner

The good news, from my point of view at least, is that natural burials can cost less than being interred in a traditional cemetery. And, according to the Good Funeral Guide, I shouldn’t be put off by some thoughts that might otherwise deter me: “If you like to source your goods locally, and entertain intuitive misgivings about willow coffins from Poland or bamboo from China, you may be relieved to find that their carbon footprint is often no greater than that some of our home-grown ones.”

Assessing the environmental impact of a funeral (CFR preferences, small image)
My preferences for disposing of my remains (click image to embiggen)
(original source: Ken West MBE)

The Natural Death Centre website features a list of natural burial grounds in the UK. I’ve made contact with a couple of the nearest with a view to reserving my final resting place. I hope you’ll consider doing likewise.

Don’t lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree,
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way,
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done,
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.

Pam Ayres

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Climate, Core thought, Education, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, Health, memetics, Phlyarology, Science, Strategy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to On Earth Day, please choose to NOT cremate yourself

  1. Herb says:

    Does this mean you don’t want us to like or comment your posts any more?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. ShiraDest says:

    One could donate one’s body to The Body Farm, for forensic archeology study…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I watched a YouTube video from Vox a couple years ago about the costs of traditional burial. It was absolutely fascinating. YouTube isn’t liking my Tor connection at the moment, otherwise I would share it, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

    Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      ‘Vox burial video’? Is it this one?

      Fascinating. Concerning the two technological solutions they touch on towards the end (‘promession’ and ‘alkaline hydrolysis’), I wonder whether the environmental costs of developing those systems on an industrial scale have been properly considered. My suspicion is: ‘not’.

      I’m glad that the conclusion they come to is that natural burial would seem to be the obvious way forward. We’ve done that since time immemorial — and, as they said, the advantages of that are that it’s inexpensive, natural, and nature loves it.


  4. davidatqcm says:

    Thought provoking for a seventh decadian, thank you

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I want to be buried with an acorn in my hand I will feed that tree for a hundred years
    Laughter is cheaper than Make-up and makes faces prettier

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You really put in a lot of thought into that, huh? It’s a very informative post. I think many people who say they care about the environment think that cremation is the way to go. This perfectly illustrates how it’s not. With that said, I hope you enjoy many, many more years on this planet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • pendantry says:

      I’ve long thought that burning one’s body couldn’t be an environmentally friendly act. But it was only recently that I’d looked into it in a bit more depth — and had my suspicions confirmed. My investigations were instigated partly by the approach of the end of my allotted ‘three score years and ten’, and also by the fact that some folks dear to me admitted that they’d already made arrangements to cremate themselves when they go. Unfortunately, it is not easy to reverse a decision one has already deeply considered, even in the face of an overwhelming argument. And I know that nagging can be counter-productive. I hope that my post may influence others who have not yet made this decision, though.

      Thank you, Goldie; I hope that you, too, live long — and prosper 🖖🏾

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: No more “blah, blah, blah” – we need ACTION, NOW | Wibble

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